On the same day the NFL heard the Saints' appeals in their hits-for-cash scandal, a recording of Gregg Williams emerged that purports to capture the defensive coordinator telling players to "put a lick" on 49ers receiver Kyle Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion.
Filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, who had access to Saints meetings for a documentary, posted the audio on his website.
Pamphilon initially shared the content with Yahoo Sports, telling the website that while he was not bothered by much of Williams' profanity-laced speech, he was troubled by comments about the previously concussed player.
"I thought, 'Did he just say that?' " Pamphilon said in an article posted Thursday. "That was the red flag for me."
Williams, who is suspended indefinitely for his admitted role overseeing a bounty system that offered Saints defenders payment for painful hits, did not respond to a phone message and email left with his foundation in Missouri.
Williams left New Orleans after last season — his third with the Saints — and was hired as defensive coordinator by the St. Louis Rams.
Pamphilon made the recording of Williams' speech during a meeting before the Saints lost to San Francisco in a divisional playoff last January, the final game Williams coached.
In Pamphilon's recording, Williams also tells his players to set their sights on running back Frank Gore, quarterback Alex Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree.
"We need to decide on how many times we can beat Frank Gore's head," he says.
Williams also implores his charges to "lay out" Smith and later adds, "We need to decide whether Crabtree wants to be a (expletive) prima donna or he wants to be a tough guy. He becomes human when we … take out that outside ACL."
Pamphilon also described Williams pointing to his chin when he said, "We hit (expletive) Smith right there."
Pamphilon said Williams then rubbed his fingers together as one might do when doling out cash, saying, "I got the first one," which Pamphilon understood to mean the defensive coordinator had placed a cash bounty on Smith.
The NFL has said Williams' bounty system offered off-the-books cash payments of $1,000 or more for hits that either knocked targeted opponents out of games or left them needing help off the field. The Saints have been punished heavily for allowing such a program to continue for three seasons, from 2009 when they won the Super Bowl through 2011.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, while handing down suspensions of eight games to general manager Mickey Loomis and six games to assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers. The Saints were fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks this year and next.
The recording was released hours before Payton, Loomis and Vitt went to NFL headquarters in New York for an appeal hearing regarding their unprecedented punishments.
After Vitt's appeal was heard, his lawyer, David Cornwell, was asked about the audio tape. Cornwell said Payton viewed Williams' comments as "a rogue coach about to get fired."
"He was fired two days later," said Cornwell, who also serves as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association. "He was on the way out."
However, when Williams left New Orleans for the Rams in January, nobody with the Saints characterized it as a firing. At the time, Payton said it was apparent shortly before the season ended that Williams, with his contract expiring, was likely going to join new St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, an old friend. The Saints and Williams never discussed an extension, Payton said then.